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Hotel and Motel Guests

Guests of hotels, motels, and like temporary lodging are generally considered licensees and not tenants. In most jurisdictions the landowner may use reasonable means of self-help eviction to oust such guests. [1]

This rule is discussed in Young v. Harrison, 284 F.3d 863 (8th Cir. 2002). “Many jurisdictions draw a distinction between a tenant and a hotel guest by reasoning that the tenant acquires an interest in the real estate and has the exclusive possession of the leased premises, whereas the guest acquires no estate and has mere use without the actual or exclusive possession. The great weight of authority leads us to conclude that the better view is that hotel guests are not tenants, and therefore hotel guests do not have all of the rights afforded tenants….” [2]

Courts have considered several factors in distinguishing a licensee from a tenant including retention of a key to occupant’s room[3], maid service [4], sharing of facilities [5], and that furniture and furnishings were provided by the owner[6].

Even if some of the various characteristics usually indicative of a licensee status are present, if the parties intended to transfer exclusive possession a tenancy may be found.[7]

The degree of permanency of the occupancy is traditionally a key consideration.[8]

The Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act includes roomers and boarders, but excludes transient occupancy in a hotel, or motel or lodging.[9]

This is a short summary and not a substitute for legal advice. Laws vary by jurisdiction and are subject to change. For legal advice about your circumstances consult an attorney.


[1] See Schonshinsi, American Law of Landlord and Tenant, § 1:6; Harkins v. WIN Corp., 771 A.2d 1025 (D.C. Ct. App. 2001), citing 2 Richard R. Powell & Patrick J. Rohan, Powell on Real Property § 16.02[3][ii], at 16-29 (Michael A. Wolf ed. 2000).

[2] Id., citations omitted.

[3] Stowe v. Fritzie Hotels, Inc., 44 Cal.2d 416, 282 P.2d 890 (1955).

[4] Roberts v. Casey, 36 Cal.App.2d Supp. 767, 93 P.2d 654 (1939).

[5] Taylor v. Dean, 78 A.2d 382 (1951).

[6] Stowe v. Fritzie Hotels, Inc., 44 Cal.2d 416, 282 P.2d 890 (1955); Lambert v. Sine, 123 Utah 145, 256 P.2d 241 (1953).

[7] Id.

[8] See Schonshinsi, supra, citing Tenant, Lodger, and Guest: Questionable Categories for Modern Rental Occupants, 64 Yale L.J. 391 (1955). But see Wilson v. Martin, 1845 WL 441 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1845)(“When one contracts with the keeper of a hotel or boarding-house for rooms and board, whether for a week or a year, the technical relation of landlord and tenant is not created between the parties. The lodger acquires no interest in the real estate.”).

[9] Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, § 1.202and Comment at http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/archives/ulc/fnact99/1970s/urlta72.htm (last accessed 04/18/09).

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